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Massages are not just for a spa day anymore....Nurses orders!!

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Massages are not just for a spa day anymore....Nurses orders!!

Massages are awesome.  Most people think of them as something that you should do on a special occasion once a year.  Not me, I get them sometimes weekly, but most often every other week...not because I am spoiled, but because I work my body hard with running/working out, work, and I totally stress myself out about stupid things all the time, and I need to help my body relax and rejuvenate.  Some insurance companies will actually pay for massages by certain massage therapists, so it is worth a call to find out if you are covered, because what is better than a massage?  A FREE massage!   What are some of the health benefits?  Stress relief, anxiety/depression alleviation, pain/stiffness relief, blood pressure control, aides in infant growth, prevents sports-related injuries, boost immunity, and can help with cancer therapies.  So, I asked my friend, who is a LMT (licensed massage therapist) to write a little more in depth about various massages therapies, how to find the right massage therapist, and why it is, in fact, work for your body and should be uncomfortable at times to get the full benefits!!  Enjoy!!
Yours in Good Health!

I was asked to return and talk about the joys and benefits of massage, and though there are few who would disagree about these benefits, I would feel less than disappointed if I didn’t at least reach out to the select few who claim that they cringe at the thought of being touched by a complete stranger. As much as some would believe this to be a perfectly reasonable phobia, I’m still a firm believer that all phobias can be confronted and cured through certain steps.
From the moment we are born into this world, we become familiar with the sensation that is touch. We are held and cradled by a warm embrace after a few shock minutes of pain. Though we as humans rarely develop a cognitive memory before age five, it’s foolish to think that our central nervous system isn’t working to develop the deeper senses and instincts. It is because of the nurturing process, that later on we are either comforted and familiar with the healing powers of massage or deeply disturbed and afraid of overall human contact.
When one truly contemplates the ideal of either medical or therapeutic touch, it’s really quite simple.  We long and need and crave human contact.  There is a healing energy that comes with being a person and unless you have lived in the allegorical cave all your life, you would be ignoring one of the most basic of human needs.  It can be esoteric and even harder to explain, but the simple fact is one always feels SOMETHING upon physical contact with another. Something that goes beyond comprehension and words and anyone who has ever judged someone for better or worse from a handshake knows that to be indisputable. Mind you, one should reserve judgment on any moral grounds, but you can’t, nor should you ignore your better instincts when it comes to personal safety.
Now that we got that out of the way, lets talk shop!! I would like to get a few things straight and go over some common misconceptions and usual questions about the world of Massage Therapy. The first being, what are the physiological benefits?  Simply put, it promotes blood circulation, reduces stress and thusly enhances the immune system.  Those are just the beginning perks coming from the most basic form of massage, often referred to as Swedish. 
To those who are relatively new to this type of thing, there are several different types of massage that all serve a different purpose.  The most common of which most anyone will find while searching the market are Swedish, Deep Tissue, Sports massage, and reflexology.  Swedish massage is described as an application of oils, scented oils, lotion or specific types of gels that are appointed lightly over the skin in a certain pattern that correlates with ones blood circulation.  This allows ones blood vessels to dilate allowing said blood to reach all vital organs in a more harmonious fashion.  While this particular type of massage is not always preferred, due to the nicey nice nature, it can be extremely helpful for people who are hypoglycemic, diabetic, or just live with low blood sugar.
Next is deep tissue, which to the seasoned veteran, is basically the same as Swedish but with deeper pressure, and shorter strokes to the problematic areas.  This type of work is generally reserved for the more active and athletic public.  I’m sure most if not all are familiar with how back or shoulder knots feel after a day of heavy lifting or a couple hours at the gym.  This happens because of during a deep contraction of the muscle, lactic acid tends to draw to the area, leaving it feeling, sore or perhaps even overworked.  The best way to remove and relieve it is direct pressure.  To this day it still surprises me that people expect to be in a euphoric state during this type of work, when in fact it’s usually quite the opposite.  The therapists main goal is to, lack for a better term, eradicate this with as much effort that is appropriate. He or she will most likely apply elbows and body weight to the area of referred pain for minutes at a time that some say pass like an hour.  The relief isn’t immediate either; eight times out of ten one will walk out feeling worse then when they came in, especially if the therapist is still a neophyte to the profession (which is why one should take into serious consideration as to who they would have work on them… but I’m getting ahead of myself). As I was saying the relief is not immediate because getting this particular type of massage can be synonymous with running a marathon.  If you allow the process to run its course properly, you will notice results the next day.  Some would refer to this as a crappy deal, but as I said, if you go about it properly, receive the massage on a day off or at the end of the day, and take a nap or just sleep it off, you will wake up refreshed, and feeling anew. 
That being said when choosing a massage therapist for such work, one would be right to do the research.  Too often have I heard on my own table, how consistently disappointing a deep tissue massage can be, never on my account of course, but many therapists tend to not deliver.  This is either because the pressure was too deep, or not deep enough, which is pretty messed up considering the going rate for most massages.
The same goes for a sport massage.  This style’s technique has some versatility, because it can be used for both settings of an athletic event i.e. before the event and after.  It is pretty important, neigh, vital that one specifies which they are looking for in order to prevent injuries such as hyperextensions, muscle tearing, spraining and even bone fractures.  The pre-event sports massage should be done obviously before an athletic event such as long distance running to help warm up and contract the muscle fibers necessary for enhancing performance. When done properly the P.E. sports massage is described as a series of tapotement (percussion or light medium tapping all over the body), kneading (short, specific strokes to promote blood flow and hyperemia), rocking and compressions. I’d say this kind of work could be compared to getting pumped up before a big game with a few slaps to the face, or a therapeutic adrenaline rush.
The post-event sports massage is obviously for after athletic events, and is the more relaxing of the two.  It incorporates deep and positional stretching, of both the limbs and muscles, and deep tissue pressure.  When done properly sports massage is synonymous with yoga, only the one receiving is doing none of the work and receiving all the benefits.  Also this sort of work can be done at any point of the day. It improves flexibility and muscle elasticity, as well as promoted blood flow and stress reduction on a mental and physical level.
Finally, reflexology; I’m referencing this work for a few reasons.  The main one being that, this style of massage is usually reserved, preferred, but not limited to the general public who don’t enjoy full-body work.  Statistically, I think we can all agree that we endure similar woes with the feet. We walk, we sprain, we break, cut and callous, and in the long run, treatment of said hardships are rare and limited. That’s right!! For those who never heard of reflexology, it is simply put, the greatest foot massage one could receive.  This is an eastern practice rooted in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which incorporates pressure points in the feet, that correlate and connect to all the vital organs of the body (stomach, liver, lungs, heart, large intestine, small intestine, etc).  This is a widely accepted practice around the world, and it only covers a small amount of your body’s surface area. I can only speak so much for the experience, so I would have to implore those to go experience this for themselves.  However this is the least invasive of all the massages discussed today, and it takes half the time. So one would find this a logical solution for those who are short of leisure and with busy schedules.
Before I end this discussion I think it would be pertinent to discuss the proper ways of finding the right massage therapist.  As it were, the more adventurous public seems to go the trial by error route. I am not completely against this method, but this being my profession, I tend to have a hard time gambling with my comfort.  Also its come to my attention that most people don’t seem to know the etiquette in finding someone who would best suit their experience and needs.  Usually avoid casino’s and other overpriced venues; yes the scenery is nice, and everyone loves a steam room, but in my travels I have learned to keep it simple.  The spa’s that are self-run tend to carry the most talent.  The utilities may not be as plentiful, but a nice comfy couch, perhaps a soothing fireplace, and a clean bathroom will be all you need.

The normal protocol for setting an appointment is as follows:
Secretary answers: Welcome to SeaSpa Experience how can I help you
Potential client: Yes I would like to schedule a massage
Secretary:  Do you prefer a male or female?
Potential client: it doesn’t matter….

At this point, I would say 90% of the time the secretary would choose the most senior and available therapist on the list.  Now I’m certainly not going to infer that one gender is better than the other, because that is never the case nor the issue, but when you get to the part of the secretary asking you what type of massage you are looking to receive, it is more than appropriate to inquire a recommendation.  Believe it or not the spa community is well known for its trading and bartering, and the secretaries are even more known for sampling the products.  I will guarantee that when you specify the type of massage desired, and follow up question of, “which therapist would you recommend for this type of massage?”, She will not hesitate in assisting you with a well guided decision.  Also, never write off word of mouth, or research.  Most people who visit spas regularly are notorious for writing reviews, so if you see a name repeated on more than one occasion, it’s a good sign that you won’t be disappointed.
Until then, happy hunting and safe journey!


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